Free Guy review in a nutshell: Run, don’t walk, to your nearest cinema to watch this absolute delight of an action comedy where being good is a cheat code to thriving in a violent video game world.
- Movie synopsis
- Would I recommend you watch it?
- Full review of Free Guy (with moderate spoilers)
- Where to watch Free Guy
An NPC in a video game finds out that he’s a background character in brutal game world.
Would I recommend you watch it?
YES. Whether you’re a gamer yourself, or a non-gamer who likes action comedies with a splash of romance and tongue-in-cheek humour, this movie will hit every spot.
Or continue reading for a full review with some spoilers.
Full review of Free Guy (with moderate spoilers)
Free Guy is an absolute delight and a hilarious send-off to video game movies. Now, keep in mind that I seldom play video games, so I won’t be able to point out all the Easter eggs and references, but it’s basically about Guy, an optimistic NPC (non-player character, aka background characters that video game players interact with in games) in Free City, which is a Grand Theft Auto-like world where “Hero” characters strut around in sunglasses and cool outfits exploding stuff and robbing banks, and Guy and his NPC friends just live happily around them.
One day, after bumping into Molotov Girl, a “Hero” character, and falling in love with her at first sight, Guy’s consciousness awakens. He begins to break out of the script that he’s been living in, and in a bid to find Molotov Girl, he steals the sunglasses that one of the “Heroes” is wearing. Suddenly, he sees the world around him as the video game world that it is, and though he doesn’t understand it at first, he takes the advice of Molotov Girl (whom he manages to find again) and begins to “level up” his character.
In the meantime, Molotov Girl is actually Millie, an introverted female developer in the real world who’s trying to find evidence that Antwan, the CEO of Soonami, the video game company behind Free City, illegally used the code of Life Itself — a game that Millie and her best friend and programming partner Keys developed which Soonami bought over and then shelved — without paying them the royalties. She’s been exploring Free City to find Life Itself’s code, but is having no luck getting into the fortress that holds the evidence until Guy appears on the scene (after he has leveled up) and helps her.
What made the film such a delight for me was Ryan Reynolds playing Guy as an unbelievably earnest, innocent and sweet guy, despite the violent rules of the frankly assholish video game world he’s living in (you get points for robbing people and kicking them in the balls? What kind of stupid game is this???). He circumvents the rules of the game and levels up super fast by helping people instead. (I’m assuming this is some kind of cheat code, cause I missed the explanation for it.) He’s also dressed as a dweeb in a blue shirt whilst doing so — since his NPC originated as a bank teller — which goes against the typical video game hero in cool outfits and sunglasses, hence his nickname among gamers as “Blue Shirt Guy”, who’re amazed at how fast he’s leveling up in the game.
Even in the third act, when he’s faced against Dude, a hyper muscular, jacked-up version of him (with a tattoo of a blue shirt on his pec!) that is extremely, hilariously dumb but powerful, and Guy is in a situation where he has to kill or be killed, he finds a third option that involves neither. That even in this seemingly life-or-death situation, Guy could still be a great guy (no pun intended), is what makes him so lovable and worth rooting for.
(And gosh, Dude was so funny and SO RIDICULOUS as a literally half-developed character with barely a brain and no vocabulary, because the programmers haven’t added those to his character yet! ?)
Also, the CAMEOS. The celebrity and prop cameos in this film are my favourite parts! The film absolutely milks its Disney ownership to show off some incredibly iconic weapons at a key scene, and when I saw the shape of the first prop, I was like, “Could it be? Are they really going to go there?” And they did!! ? Followed the brief appearance of one of my favourite actors as himself. There’s also a cameo by a fairly popular actor that I haven’t seen in quite a while as the avatar of a stereotypical gamer. And according to director Shawn Levy, some more voice cameos, but I didn’t recognise those until I saw them in the credits.
Taika Waititi — who’s better known as a director now because of Thor: Ragnarok, but is also an actor whose last movie with Ryan Reynolds was the ill-fated Green Lantern — continues his acting career of playing kooky characters here. He’s an eccentric, money-grabbing CEO who just wants to cash in on existing IP as quickly as possible by putting out shoddy products, and blatantly lies to consumers about including features that he had no intention of putting in just so they’ll buy the games. Basically, the ultimate enemy of gamers everywhere.
He’s a really funny villain, but the lengths he goes to just to hide his crime of stealing Millie and Keys’ code for Life Itself is mind-boggling. Like, he’s willing to do everything and anything to keep the cash cow going, including cutting corners and destroying the game itself, except put out a quality product that consumers will want to continue buying, and be an honest businessman. (Which is the attitude of rich, money-grabbing companies in the real world too. I don’t understand these greedy capitalists. ?)
Speaking of Green Lantern though, the actors did a promo clip almost two years back now on how they loved working together, in which Ryan Reynolds and Taika Waititi pretended not to have worked together before, and when Jodie Comer and Joe Keery called them out on it, they “left the chat”. ?
(And really, everyone laughs about Green Lantern now and Ryan Reynolds references it often as his worst mistake, but his career took five whole depressing years of flop after flop to recover from that debacle. So if he’s squeezing that lemon bomb to turn into swimming pools of lemonade that he’ll pour over every film that he makes from now on, I think he’s more than earned it.)
I wish Lil Rel Howery had more to do though. He was just the token Black best friend here. 🙁
This movie is a lot of things. A romcom, a Truman Show parallel, an homage to video games and gaming culture, an allegory for how to live in a world filled with violence and continue being good, a criticism of the constant churning out of sequels vs originality, and even more that I’m probably missing out. But above all, it’s just a damn good time at the movies. I watched it in a theatre that only had six people in it, including me and my friend, and while it was nice to feel like the theatre was just ours, it would have been nicer with an audience to appreciate and laugh along with.
Go to the movies!
Even more spoilery feelings about MAJOR spoilers here! Do not open the link if you don’t want to see them!
Where to watch Free Guy
Free Guy is now showing wherever cinemas are open. Go support your cinemas! They need you!